Dialog critique please

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D.T.Roberts
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Dialog critique please

Post by D.T.Roberts » October 1st, 2010, 12:58 pm

Dialog critique please. This is an exerpt from chapter three. To set the scene, there has been a security breach involving confidential finacial information on some very wealthy, powerful people who have purchased expensive new cars from a local Lexus/Mercedes Benz dealership. The FBI has sent Special Agent Malcolm Porter to assist in the investigation. The assumption to this point is that identity theft is the motive. Agent Malcolm has requested a meeting with Martin Chambers, the Assistant District Attorney and his investigative team. Meanwhile, Alex Mendez, a detective with the local police department, is investigating a series of rapes. He now believes the rapes have all been commited by one person who is very good at leaving no phisical evidence.


Malcolm Porter arrived at the DA’s office a 8:45. Martin and his investigative team were assembled in the break room.

“Good morning,” Martin greeted him.

“Good morning.” Malcolm said greeting the other men in the room.

“Gentlemen, this is Special Agent Malcolm Porter of the FBI. He has been sent to assist us with this investigation.” Martin said, addressing the room. “This is Detective Allen Ritchey, Detective Susan Kaufman, and over here,” he said, pointing toward the coffee pot, “is our I.T . banned word David Williams.”

“It’s good to meet all of you.” said Malcolm. “Thank you for coming.”
He placed the box of files on the table, and opened a map of the city. “I was going through the files last night, looking for any type of pattern. Of the eighty four names in these files, twenty three of them live in other cities at least fifteen miles away. Then I noticed several with addresses on the same street here in Cypress Village.” explained Malcolm. “So, I bought a map of the city. As I went through the rest of the addresses, I noticed that thirty six of them are concentrated in one area, a subdivision called The Cove. Is this an expensive neighborhood?” he asked.

“The Cove is a gated community with most of the homes well over the million dollar mark.” Martin said. “Most of the areas wealthiest people live there.”

“Why would someone hack into the financial records of a car dealership?” he asked, not really looking for a response. “If you were looking to steel identities, why not a bank? I believe that the dealership offers a tighter focus of money than a bank would, fewer files to search.” he said, answering his own question before anyone could respond.

“Excuse me, Mr. Chambers, I’m sorry to disturb you but Alex Mendez is here to see you.” said Tracy Tillman through the door. "Shall I tell him you are in a meeting?”

“No,” said Martin, “Send him in, I would like him to meet agent Porter.”

“Yes sir.”

Alex entered the room. “I’m sorry Martin. If this is a bed time, I can come back.”

“Not at all Alex, I’d like you to meet Special Agent Malcolm Porter with the FBI.” Martin said. “This is Detective Alex Mendez with the Cypress Village PD violent crimes unit.” He told Malcolm.

“Nice to meet you.” Alex said extending his hand.

“Likewise.” said Malcolm as he grasped Alex’s hand firmly.

“Agent Porter is assisting with the investigation of the security breech at the Mercedes dealership.” Martin explained. “What can I do for you this morning?”

“Really, I could come back at another time.”

“Nonsense.” replied Martin. “If you are here to see me, it must concern this office. What’s up?”

“As I’m sure you’ve heard, we have had three rapes of local women in the past week and a half.” began Alex.

“I’ve been following it on the news.” said Martin.

“The M.O. is very similar in all three cases.” he said. “I believe we have a serial rapist on our hands. Unfortunately, there has been absolutely no physical evidence, no leads.”

“Nothing?” asked Martin.

“Forensics has come up empty. This guy is very careful.” Alex said. “I think we need some help on this one.”

“Sounds familiar.” said Martin. “We had a similar sting of rapes four years ago. Seven victims in all, one of them died.” Martin explained to Malcolm. “Same thing, no forensic evidence.”

“Do you have the victims names?” asked Malcolm.

“Yes.” Alex said as he handed Malcolm a piece of paper with a summary of the three crimes.

Malcolm studied the paper for several seconds.”Interesting.” he mumbled to himself. He placed the paper on the table and withdrew a folder from the box. He studied it for a few seconds. “Gentlemen, I believe we just found our motive.”

“What do you mean?’ asked Martin.

“These three names are on both lists. All three live in The Cove. All three have purchased new vehicles recently.” Malcolm explained. “These cases are related.”

This revelation took the room by surprise. The other detectives began to talk among themselves.

“I’ll call the bureau field office. We need a criminal profile.” said Malcolm.

“Four years ago, we had a criminal profile done by Dr. Elizabeth Reynolds, it offered no new leads, so we got one from the FBI. Same results, no new leads.” Martin said.

“Were the profiles consistent?” Did they offer the same type of suspect?” Malcolm asked.

“They were nearly identical.” Alex said. The first time he had had spoken since the discussion began. “I’d like to let Dr. Reynolds give it another shot.”

“What are her qualifications?” asked Malcolm.

“She is a forensic psychiatrist with specialized training in criminal profiling from the FBI.” Alex replied.

“Let’s give her the files on both our case, and yours. Let’s see if she can pin this guy down.” said Martin.

“But, just to let you know ,detective,” Malcolm said, “Dr. Reynolds is on this list.”
It has been said that writing comes more easily if you have something to say.

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sldwyer
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Re: Dialog critique please

Post by sldwyer » October 1st, 2010, 2:10 pm

The one thing that jumps out at me right away is that they all sound the same. None of the characters have a distinct way of speaking, so if you didn't put tags in, I wouldn't know who was speaking.

Second - They speak a little to formally for cops and use very little "cop speak" - ie. vic instead of victim, etc.

Try changing some of the dialog around to make certain characters stand out and others fade into the background according to their position in the story line. Shorten some of the responses - cops grunt and chop words with the best of them.

Otherwise - a very interesting story working.

D.T.Roberts
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Re: Dialog critique please

Post by D.T.Roberts » October 1st, 2010, 2:24 pm

Thanks, I appreciate the suggestions. This is a first draft but I do need to let the individual personalities show more thru dialog... I guess this is where more indepth character developement comes into play.

Also, I've noticed that many best selling authors give much of the background of characters through narration, but, according to some tips I've read on various websites, it's better to let the character emerge gradually through scenes where thier interaction with others reveals much of the background that made the characters who they are. I'm conflicted on which way to go. Maybe the minor characters could be through narrative and the main emerging through dialog filled scenes. Any thoughts?
It has been said that writing comes more easily if you have something to say.

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sldwyer
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Re: Dialog critique please

Post by sldwyer » October 3rd, 2010, 3:29 pm

I wouldnt worry too much about the minor characters unless they add any impact to the story or the main character. Most readers don't care about minor characters - they come and go and do not do anything to move the story forward - usually.

When you use dialog to bring out information about a character make sure you don't sound as if you are relating this information for the reader, i.e. "Gosh Bob I havent seen you since your wife died two years ago and you lost your job, and your dog died on you." Overkill. N ormal conversation can bring up information in bits and pieces as it relates to the current scene.
Good luck and it is a good first draft. My thoughts are get it all down on paper (computer) first to the very end and don't worry about it being perfect. You do all that good stuff when you edit and revise.

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arbraun
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Re: Dialog critique please

Post by arbraun » October 9th, 2010, 5:02 pm

I thought I'd take a look at this because dialogue is my strength.
D.T.Roberts wrote:Malcolm Porter arrived at the DA’s office a 8:45. Martin and his investigative team were assembled in the break room.

“Good morning,” Martin greeted him.

“Good morning.” Malcolm said greeting the other men in the room. "Good morning," Malcom answered, greeting the other men in the room.

“Gentlemen, this is Special Agent Malcolm Porter of the FBI. He has been sent to assist us with this investigation.” Martin said, addressing the room. Too many speech tags, IMHO. I'd leave off the tag here. We know it's Martin speaking because he spoke last a couple of paragraphs ago. “This is Detective Allen Ritchey, Detective Susan Kaufman, and over here,” he said, pointing toward the coffee pot, “is our I.T . banned word David Williams.” The way it's worded, I'm wondering if he gave the coffee pot a name. I'd reword it.

“It’s good to meet all of you.” said Malcolm. “Thank you for coming.”
He placed the box of files on the table, and opened a map of the city. “I was going through the files last night, looking for any type of pattern. Of the eighty four names in these files, twenty three of them live in other cities at least fifteen miles away. Then I noticed several with addresses on the same street here in Cypress Village.” Here you don't need a speech tag, and you used a period in front of a speech tag instead of a comma. I'd not do that. explained Malcolm. “So, I bought a map of the city. As I went through the rest of the addresses, I noticed that thirty six of them are concentrated in one area, a subdivision called The Cove. Is this an expensive neighborhood?” he asked. Again, you don't need this tag.

“The Cove is a gated community with most of the homes well over the million dollar mark.” comma Martin said. “Most of the areas wealthiest people live there.”

“Why would someone hack into the financial records of a car dealership?” he asked, not really looking for a response. “If you were looking to steel identities, why not a bank? I believe that the dealership offers a tighter focus of money than a bank would, fewer files to search.” he said, answering his own question before anyone could respond. Double speech tag that's unneeded here. And who is speaking? If you're going to let us know it's Mr. Chambers in the next paragraph, I'd drop the tag.

“Excuse me, Mr. Chambers, I’m sorry to disturb you but Alex Mendez is here to see you.” said Tracy Tillman through the door. "Shall I tell him you are in a meeting?”

“No,” said Martin, “Send him in, I would like him to meet agent Porter.”

“Yes sir.”

Alex entered the room. “I’m sorry Martin. If this is a bed time, I can come back.”

“Not at all Alex, I’d like you to meet Special Agent Malcolm Porter with the FBI.” Martin said. We know it's Martin speaking because Alex just called him "Martin." “This is Detective Alex Mendez with the Cypress Village PD violent crimes unit.” He told Malcolm. Really unneeded speech tag.

“Nice to meet you.” Alex said extending his hand.

“Likewise.” said Malcolm as he grasped Alex’s hand firmly.

“Agent Porter is assisting with the investigation of the security breech at the Mercedes dealership.” Martin explained. “What can I do for you this morning?”

“Really, I could come back at another time.”

“Nonsense.” replied Martin. “If you are here to see me, it must concern this office. What’s up?”

“As I’m sure you’ve heard, we have had three rapes of local women in the past week and a half.” began Alex. I'd stick with "said."

“I’ve been following it on the news.” said Martin.

“The M.O. is very similar in all three cases.” he said. “I believe we have a serial rapist on our hands. Unfortunately, there has been absolutely no physical evidence, no leads.”

“Nothing?” asked Martin.

“Forensics has come up empty. This guy is very careful.” Alex said. “I think we need some help on this one.”

“Sounds familiar.” said Martin. “We had a similar sting of rapes four years ago. Seven victims in all, one of them died.” Martin explained to Malcolm. “Same thing, no forensic evidence.”

“Do you have the victims names?” asked Malcolm.

“Yes.” Alex said as he handed Malcolm a piece of paper with a summary of the three crimes.

Malcolm studied the paper for several seconds.”Interesting.” he mumbled to himself. Here you don't need the speech tag because you have an action by Martin. He placed the paper on the table and withdrew a folder from the box. He studied it for a few seconds. “Gentlemen, I believe we just found our motive.”

“What do you mean?’ asked Martin.

“These three names are on both lists. All three live in The Cove. All three have purchased new vehicles recently.” Malcolm explained. “These cases are related.”

This revelation took the room by surprise. The other detectives began to talk among themselves.

“I’ll call the bureau field office. We need a criminal profile.” said Malcolm.

“Four years ago, we had a criminal profile done by Dr. Elizabeth Reynolds, it offered no new leads, so we got one from the FBI. Same results, no new leads.” Martin said.

“Were the profiles consistent?” Did they offer the same type of suspect?” Malcolm asked.

“They were nearly identical.” Alex said. The first time he had had spoken since the discussion began. “I’d like to let Dr. Reynolds give it another shot.”

“What are her qualifications?” asked Malcolm.

“She is a forensic psychiatrist with specialized training in criminal profiling from the FBI.” Alex replied.

“Let’s give her the files on both our case, and yours. Let’s see if she can pin this guy down.” said Martin.

“But, just to let you know ,detective,” Malcolm said, “Dr. Reynolds is on this list.”
The biggest problem I found was that you could've used actions instead of speech tags most of the time, like so: Martin shrugged. "Let's give her the files on both our cases . . ." I'd use actions instead of speech tags and only use the tags when absolutely necessary, to alternate from too many actions.

Hope this helps,

A. R.

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wordranger
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Re: Dialog critique please

Post by wordranger » October 10th, 2010, 12:55 am

Here you go... Line by LIne

“Good morning,” Martin greeted him.

“Good morning.” Malcolm said greeting the other men in the room.

I skip the obvious good mornings. If you feel it is important, just say that Martin greeted everyone.

“Gentlemen, this is Special Agent Malcolm Porter of the FBI. He has been sent to assist us with this investigation.” The period at the end of the sentance should be a comma when you are about to say "Martin said." Martin said, addressing the room. “This is Detective Allen Ritchey, Detective Susan Kaufman, and over here,” he said, pointing toward the coffee pot, “is our I.T . banned word David Williams.”

“It’s good to meet all of you.” <<< There's a period again. said Malcolm. “Thank you for coming.”
He placed the box of files on the table, and opened a map of the city. “I was going through the files last night, looking for any type of pattern. Of the eighty four names in these files, twenty three of them live in other cities at least fifteen miles away. Then I noticed several with addresses on the same street here in Cypress Village.” explained Malcolm. “So, I bought a map of the city. As I went through the rest of the addresses, I noticed that thirty six of them are concentrated in one area, a subdivision called The Cove. Is this an expensive neighborhood?” he asked. I think this may a bit too dialog heavy. I'm lost. Does the reader need to know this much detail?
“The Cove is a gated community with most of the homes well over the million dollar mark.” Martin said. “Most of the areas wealthiest people live there.”

“Why would someone hack into the financial records of a car dealership?” he asked, not really looking for a response. (I'd get rid of the tag line completely here... just let the dialog flow.) “If you were looking to steel identities, why not a bank? I believe that the dealership offers a tighter focus of money than a bank would, fewer files to search.” he said, answering his own question before anyone could respond. Again, I think this tag is not necessary. It detracts from your dialog
“Excuse me, Mr. Chambers, I’m sorry to disturb you but Alex Mendez is here to see you.” said Tracy Tillman through the door. "Shall I tell him you are in a meeting?” Is Tracy an important character? If not, I would leave the name out. there are a lot of characters to keep track of in this scene.
“No,” said Martin, “Send him in, I would like him to meet agent Porter.”

“Yes sir.” Good. I like that there is no tag here.
Alex entered the room. “I’m sorry Martin. If this is a bed time, I can come back.”

“Not at all Alex, I’d like you to meet Special Agent Malcolm Porter with the FBI.” Martin said. “This is Detective Alex Mendez with the Cypress Village PD violent crimes unit.” He told Malcolm. May be too much. The character heavy scene is a little confusing. Do you need to mention all the characters by name? It may not be as confusing if I read the rest already, but just from what I am reading here... lots of names to try to remember.

“Nice to meet you.” Alex said extending his hand.

“Likewise.” said Malcolm as he grasped Alex’s hand firmly. I'd get rid of this tag line completely. Make the one before it "Alex said, shaking Martin's hand."
“Agent Porter is assisting with the investigation of the security breech at the Mercedes dealership.” Martin explained. “What can I do for you this morning?”

“Really, I could come back at another time.”

“Nonsense.” replied Martin. “If you are here to see me, it must concern this office. What’s up?”

“As I’m sure you’ve heard, we have had three rapes of local women in the past week and a half.” began Alex. Kill this tag

“I’ve been following it on the news.” said Martin. I think "Martin said" sounds better, but that's just my preference.
“The M.O. is very similar in all three cases.” he said. “I believe we have a serial rapist on our hands. Unfortunately, there has been absolutely no physical evidence, no leads.”

“Nothing?” asked Martin.

My suggestion is to go back and read your work out loud to yourself. Take out as many of the tags as you can. You need some to remind the reader who is talking, but too many slows the dialog. Also, the characters all sound a bit robotic and very similar... unless that is be design.

Hope this helps!
Words are your friend.
Don't be afraid to lose yourself in them.

Jennifer Eaton, WordRanger
My Novelette LAST WINTER RED will be published by J. Taylor Publishing in December, 2012

Take a Step into My World and Learn From My Mistakes http://www.jennifermeaton.com/

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airball
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Re: Dialog critique please

Post by airball » October 11th, 2010, 11:20 pm

Honestly, cut, cut, cut.

Why have the entire team there? Keep the people in the room to a minimum and you don't have to worry so much about tags. Bits that can go:
  • So, I bought a map of the city. - Does it matter how he got it? Backstory matters, but not this much!
  • with most of the homes well over the million dollar mark. - Gated speaks for itself, esp. when you add the next line.
  • I’m sorry to disturb you but - just not necessary
  • He told Malcolm. -already in there
  • “Nice to meet you.” Alex said extending his hand.
  • “Likewise.” said Malcolm as he grasped Alex’s hand firmly. Just let them shake hands!
  • “Really, I could come back at another time.”
  • “Nonsense.” replied Martin. “If you are here to see me, it must concern this office. What’s up?” - He's said it's fine twice. Move on! Makes Alex look like a ninny.
Also:
“Gentlemen, I believe we just found our motive.” - You haven't found a motive. You've found a connection. (Unless he rapes women because they buy cars.)

Good luck!

airball
Sam Thomas
Author of The Midwife's Story: A Mystery due out from St. Martin's Press in 2013
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D.T.Roberts
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Re: Dialog critique please

Post by D.T.Roberts » October 14th, 2010, 9:27 pm

Thanks to all.
This is my 1st attempt. I have much to learn.
It has been said that writing comes more easily if you have something to say.

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